The University of New Mexico



Media Contacts: Sari Krosinsky, (505) 277-1593,

January 27, 2010

Students Flock to UNM in Cyberspace

The University of New Mexico is experiencing a cyber explosion, with unprecedented growth in online enrollment through Extended University. As of Jan. 22, student enrollment in online courses shot up 47 percent, from 1,492 in spring 2009 to 2,199 in spring 2010. That’s more than double national growth in online enrollment, recently reported at 17 percent. Student credit hours grew by 72 percent in that period, from 5,257 to 9,037.

“We’ve never seen this much growth,” Vice Provost Jerry Dominguez said.

He suggested several reasons for the increase: faculty becoming more comfortable teaching online, students – especially working students – finding it more convenient, a highly-trained professional staff supporting faculty and students, and the closing of the digital divide. Though access isn’t universal, many can now use the Internet at home, work, libraries, schools, colleges or cybercafés.

Extended University serves students from almost every county in New Mexico. “We try to make the experience as close as possible to what they get on campus,” Dominguez said.

Extended University’s New Media and Extended Learning works with instructors to adapt and develop courses for online formats. Student advisement is offered in conjunction with CAPS, the Center for Academic Program Support, to expand tutoring for distance education students, and University Libraries have increased services supporting distance learners.

Of course, not all educational experiences are best suited to the Internet. For the College of Nursing’s online bachelor’s and master’s degrees, students take coursework on the Web and do supervised clinical work where they live.

Extended University, working with UNM colleges, has targeted 15 bachelor’s degree and certificate programs for distance education development, to be delivered primarily online. Targeted programs include Navajo linguistics, elementary education, architecture, communication & journalism, psychology, English and business administration.

As student demand and faculty interest has risen, Extended University has expanded online offerings, with 30 more sections this spring than last. At President David Schmidly’s request, Extended University is considering 37 of UNM’s most popular classes, including core courses, for online course development. The goal is to make the courses that fill up fastest available to more students.

Though interest in online education is already growing rapidly, Extended University is doing what it can to push that growth further. A revenue sharing model encourages colleges to generate more online credit hours. Faculty liaisons establish peer faculty relationships within colleges and schools. The positions, funded by small annual stipends, are designed to recruit faculty to teach online and support them in the development and delivery of online courses.

Dominguez said some students still prefer other forms of distance education. Extended University also offers Interactive Television and correspondence courses, as well as live classes at field centers.

Extended University has field centers at branch campuses or community colleges in Taos, Valencia, Gallup, San Juan, Los Alamos and Santa Fe, as well as one at Kirtland Air Force Base. Dominguez said their goal is to establish partnerships with every community college in New Mexico so that anyone who wants to complete a degree at UNM will have that opportunity.


The University of New Mexico is the state's largest university, serving more than 32,000 students. UNM is home to the state's only schools of law, medicine, pharmacy and architecture and operates New Mexico's only academic health center. UNM is noted for comprehensive undergraduate programs and research that benefits the state and the nation.